Cablegate: Same Old Ipr Song in Vietnam -- But Are Those Some New
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000606
State for EB/IPC:DRBEAN, EAP/BCLTV, and EB/ODC
State pass to USTR Burcky/Alvarez and Elena Bryan
State also pass to USPTO for Urban and Fowler
State also pass to Library of Congress for Tepp
USDOC for 6500 and 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
USDOC also for ITA/TD/OTEA/JJANICKE and ITA/TD/SIF/CMUIR
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIPR ECON ETRD VM IPROP
SUBJECT: SAME OLD IPR SONG IN VIETNAM -- BUT ARE THOSE SOME NEW
1. In stark contrast with Vietnam's usual indifference to IPR
violations, press and public opinion have turned on a local
composer who apparently plagiarized a song written by a Japanese
composer. After front-page play in the local press, the Musicians
Association of Vietnam is mulling action and the government is
considering tighter IPR regulations to cover such plagiarism.
Nonetheless, there is still no legal recourse for the song's true
NOT JUST ANOTHER COPY
2. Most Ho Chi Minh City consumers - as well as local law
enforcement officials - are indifferent to the counterfeits and
copies in their midst. Venues for buying pirated DVDs, CDs, and
VCDs number in the thousands, and range from tiny, decrepit
storefronts to well-stocked counters in downtown shopping centers.
Pirated discs are merely the tip of the iceberg. Clothing of
dubious origin, counterfeit motorcycle parts, knock-off medicine,
and books hot off the photocopier abound.
3. All the more surprising then is the recent public condemnation
of a Vietnamese composer, Bao Chan, who allegedly stole a melody
from a Japanese composer and passed it off as his own. Since the
mid-1990s, a piece of music entitled "Tinh Thoi Xot Xa" (Love is
No Longer Bitter) and "composed by Bao Chan", has been familiar to
ietnamee audiences. Its most famous version was a 1996 release
by Vietnamese pop star Lam Truong.
4. In early April, Vietnamese newspapers began running front-page
stories detailing the claims of Japanese composer Keiko Matsui,
who said "Love is No Longer Bitter" was musically identical to her
song "Frontier", published in 1991. "Frontier" had been used for
a Super Mario Brothers/Nintendo game in 1991, and later released
on Ms. Matsui's album "Cherry Blossom" in 1992. Bao Chan
countered that he wrote "his" song in the 1980s, but could not
remember exactly when. Nor could he produce the original draft.
No one has come forward to vouch for the song's existence in
Vietnam prior to the release date claimed by Keiko Matsui. At
last report, Bao Chan, who describes himself as disorganized, was
searching his papers for an early version of "Love is No Longer
CASE SEEMS TO HAVE STRUCK A CHORD
5. The "Ai Copy Ai" (Who Has Copied Whom) controversy has
generated intense public interest. Major daily newspapers have
published letters from Ms. Matsui and her producer, devoting
significant space to the topic. A letter to one daily, Nguoi Lao
Dong (The Worker), even described a mathematical analysis of the
songs to determine the odds that they could be coincidentally
similar. The odds that two composers each wrote this particular
song independently are 1 in 282,475,249 per single verse of music.
Forget an entire song. The same newspaper convened a panel of
three highly-respected music professors to review the songs.
Unfortunately for Bao Chan, the panel and the court of public
opinion concluded he stole the music.
NOTHING FOR THE TRUE COMPOSER
6. Vietnam is not yet a signatory to the Berne Convention, and
Japan and Vietnam do not have bilateral agreements covering IPR.
As Ms. Matsui's producer wrote to a local paper, "If this had
happened in the U.S., our management company and publishers would
take it to court, (where) we could win easily." Not in Vietnam,
however. The National Copyright Office has publicly stated that
the case does not fall under their jurisdiction, presumably
because Ms. Matsui never registered her song in Vietnam.
GOVERNMENT MAY TAKE ACTION, BUT NOT MUCH
7. Still, the GVN or at least a government-sponsored organization
may take some action. Newspaper accounts and ConGen contacts
familiar with the case have suggested that the Communist Party-
controlled Musicians Association of Vietnam (whose membership
includes most professional composers) would probably handle the
case. These contacts say the Association might demand Bao Chan
publicly admit his guilt and apologize to the Japanese composer.
The Association could also strip him of professional memberships.
Whatever the sanctions, it appears that if his peers deem Bao Chan
guilty, his career as a composer will be seriously damaged.
8. The GVN is also considering new legal sanctions against future
offenders. The Deputy Minister of Culture and Information (MOCI)
has condemned "creative" piracy, and publicly stated that MOCI
would unveil a new administrative penalty proposal this month.
However, the head of MOCI's legal department told ConGen that this
proposal, which would be vetted by the Ministry of Justice before
going to the Prime Minister for approval, does not increase
penalties for IPR violators above their current nominal levels.
It simply expands the scope of current regulations to include
categories such as Bao Chan's alleged music plagiarism.
9. The fact that a Vietnamese composer took credit for another's
original work has offended local sensibilities far more than
millions of copies of pirated Microsoft software. Yet in a city
where IPR violations are rampant, it is a positive sign that this
case has drawn so much public attention and coverage in the
government-controlled media -- particularly since the rights
holder is a foreigner. The move to expand the universe of
punishable IPR violations is also encouraging, though the
miniscule penalties are scant disincentive. But it still leaves
Ms. Matsui with no legal recourse in Vietnam.